Jun 4th 2020LAST DECEMBER, in a different era, Avianca celebrated its centenary. Based in Colombia, it claims to be the world’s second-oldest airlin
LAST DECEMBER, in a different era, Avianca celebrated its centenary. Based in Colombia, it claims to be the world’s second-oldest airline, and the one that has flown continuously for longest. It is Latin America’s second-biggest carrier by revenues. Now, thanks to covid-19 and its associated lockdowns, Avianca’s planes are parked, its crews and ground staff furloughed. Last month it filed for relief from creditors in a New York court under Chapter 11 of the American bankruptcy code. A fortnight later, LATAM, a Chilean-Brazilian airline that is the region’s biggest, followed suit. Ecuador’s government has liquidated TAME, an ailing state-owned carrier.
This poses a policy dilemma. Governments in Europe and the United States have funnelled billions of dollars to their countries’ stricken airlines. Their counterparts in Latin America have less spare cash and different priorities. They must help tens of millions of citizens who face poverty and unemployment. Air travel in the region has historically been seen as a luxury. With their sometimes irksome pricing and unpunctuality, airlines are rarely loved and are a source of carbon emissions to boot. So far no Latin American government has offered them any financial help.
Flying matters in Latin America perhaps even more than in other regions, as Avianca’s long history testifies. That is partly because of its vast…